I met with Sybil Bell, director of development, and Mary Przybylski, annual fund coordinator. They are in charge of the United Way campaign at Saint John’s (among other things) and refer to their roles as “The Office of Joyful Giving.” Saint John’s is one of the few retirement communities in greater Milwaukee that solicits both their staff and residents on behalf of United Way.
When asked if there was pushback from residents about being asked to give to United Way, the answer was “not really.” Sybil noted, “We were worried that asking to give to United Way would impinge giving to Saint John’s, but that has not been the case. They understand these are very different missions. Residents support their college, social agencies, church/synagogue, and Saint John’s – we want them to support everyone they want to support.” Some residents mentioned that they were still being solicited through their former workplace. However, others had not been asked to give to United Way since they retired and were happy to be asked to give again.
In 2017, residents from Saint John’s raised more than $155,000 for United Way and the staff raised an additional $7,000.
I asked how they were so successful in their United Way campaign. One reason is that they utilize two very supportive residents to solicit the other residents. Pat and Allen Rieselbach have been generous donors to and volunteers for United Way for many years.
As volunteers for United Way’s Community Gifts division, Mr. and Mrs. Rieselbach would reach out to other community members in their neighborhood who were not in workplaces and ask them to give to United Way. Mrs. Rieselbach would go door-to-door to talk about United Way while Mr. Rieselbach would ask both individuals and businesses to give.
Mrs. Rieselbach said, “This is a city that really needs United Way.” Some of United Way’s work that appeals to Mr. & Mrs. Rieselbach is our work with those on the edge of financial insecurity, opioid addiction, and poverty. They also noted that, when somebody’s life is changed for the better, they will then often help change other people’s lives; it’s the ripple effect. “Their personal stories make a big difference to us. We give to people,” said Mrs. Rieselbach.
Mr. Rieselbach felt the Saint John’s campaign was so successful because the residents choose to live in the City of Milwaukee and care about the community. “We also made it easy for people to give,” he said. They gave personalized letters and pledge forms to each person so all they had to do was sign their name and enter the amount to pledge.
Staff could make their gift through payroll deduction for $5 or more. Initially, Mary and Sybil were concerned that asking for $5 was too high but were inspired to see that most staff members chose to give $20 or $25. “The staff felt they really could make a difference with their gift – they also received a cookie with their pledge form to sweeten the deal.”
The United Way success story video about Piper really resonated with the staff and residents at Saint John’s. One of the Rieselbach’s favorite parts of Piper’s story is that, after she bought her car and became financially stable, she would stop at her old bus stop and pick up as many of her co-workers as she could fit in her car. “Piper is a great example of why we give to people,” Mrs. Rieselbach said.
Feeling inspired? Learn more about how you can start a campaign in your workplace or community, or volunteer with United Way.